Construction starts on Carmel library renovation – Monterey Herald

Posted: February 11, 2020 at 3:51 pm


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CARMEL On Monday Ashlee Wright had to detour around a series of plywood walls in Carmels Harrison Memorial Library to get to a temporary check-out counter. And she couldnt be happier.

Wright, the library director, is overseeing a $372,000 upgrade that when completed will provide the community with a long-sought-after community meeting room.

Construction began last week on the most extensive renovation the library has seen in decades. The project is being funded entirely through donations, Wright said. The only involvement the city of Carmel has is in providing project management.

Carmel is a community that likes to read, Wright said, herself having been introduced to the love of reading by her mother in the same library.

The numbers bear out the support the library receives and the services it provides. The library is home to 60,000 books and roughly 104,000 items, mostly books and DVDs, are checked out annually. Add to that some 37,000 uses of digital resources such as eBooks and research links and the library quickly becomes an important part of the Carmel community, as well as a regional source of local history.

The new room will be reconfigured as an enclosed space that will serve as a community meeting place. It will be home to several library programs and serve as an after-school study area.

There have been attempts in the past to create a gathering place but they were never accomplished, Wright said. There have been a lot of requests by the public for such a meeting place, including a number of book clubs that have been asking.

The Carmel Public Library Foundation has been key to the success of the library, Wright said. While the city pays for eight full-time staff members and maintenance, 100% of the books, materials, programs, equipment and services are provided by the foundation through donations.

Wright pointed to Lacy Williams Buck as a key financial supporter of the library community. Buck, a Carmel native, had a childhood experience similar to Wrights.

As a child, she would study in the library, Wright said. She funded our history room and was excited about helping to fund the new gathering place. Lacy is one of the kindest people.

Few communities of some 4,000 residents can boast they have two library branches. In addition to the Harrison Memorial Library, the Carmel Public Library also includes the Park Branch Library, which contains the local history archives, childrens books and resources and the librarys administrative offices.

Original construction on the Harrison Memorial Library was completed in 1928, but library services date back even farther.

Library resources in Carmel date back to 1906, the date of the great San Francisco earthquake, when the Carmel Free Library Association began lending books from a little redwood building in the village. For a fee of $1 per year, people could borrow any one of 500 books from the Associations Reading Room heated by a wood-burning stove. A fireplace is still a part of the librarys interior.

The library was named after Ralph Harrison, a California Supreme Court justice who, in 1896, was named president of the San Francisco Public Library.

Jumping ahead a century, Wright recalls visiting her grandparents in Carmel when she was a teen and always making the library a destination. Even when she was finishing up her graduate degree in library sciences, Wright said she knew she would be back to the library in Carmel.

It embodies the essence of a library, she said. It retains its feeling as a library. You can feel it when you walk in, like the building had bones.

Now, some of those bones are getting a well-deserved upgrade.

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Construction starts on Carmel library renovation - Monterey Herald

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February 11th, 2020 at 3:51 pm

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